Wash Blogs!

Neither Kristy nor Cammy will be blogging tonight.  For I, Wash Seamus Downs, have hijacked it.  I interrupt this blog because… Mommy says I can’t type due to my lack of opposable thumbs.  Shows how much she knows.

So what’s new?  Well… last week Mommy gave me a greenie loaded with drugs and loaded me into my carrier and then into the car.  Where she imprisoned me for more than thirteen hours.  I spent most of that time curled up Mommy’s seat, but periodically she would prod me out so she could shove me back into my carrier.  This was so she could get out and stretch her legs, refuel the car, or use the restroom.  Please note:  she did not offer me any of those opportunities.  (Yes, there was a litter box in the car, but I have a little dignity).

At present we are staying at the home of Mommy’s parents.  They seem to be okay enough except that her father wears boots and walks very heavily.  The problem is that the house comes with two resident cats of its own, neither of which seems to appreciate my charms.  One of them is significantly larger than me which is kind of scary.  As are the noises she makes if I get near her.  My first day here, not only did she chase me under the bed; she sat beside it so that I couldn’t get from under it.  I’m not sure what’s worse: her or the little one.  The other cat here is definitely smaller than me.  Unfortunately, she’s also crazy. The kind of crazy that is so terrified of me she has to seek me out regularly so she can yell at me.  It took me a couple days, but I recently realized that if I just run at her she runs away.  It’s kind of fun, I’m not going to lie.

Other than that, I kind of like the temporary digs.  Things I have discovered here that I think we need to get at our house:

A refrigerator that sits low enough of the floor that wine corks don’t roll under it when I’m playing with them.

A cool combination scratching post/climbing tower.  It has things that hang off it and I can attack it.  And it only sometimes falls over on me.

A sunroom.  Windows everywhere!  Close up view of the squirrels!

An attic.  Mommy won’t let me play in it, but I’m pretty sure it’s awesome.

Hardwood floors.

A treadmill.  I don’t want to use it, but it sure is fun to pose on.

Coffee on Mango Street

Would we drink coffee with Sandra Cisneros?

Kristy:  Sure.  I kind of feel like I owe her at least a cup since Cammy and I met the third Reina Protestante, Mary, in a class where one of our big assignments was reading The House on Mango Street.  I also wrote one of my first grad school papers on “Woman Hollering Creek.”  I enjoy her writing because she’s one of too few (IMO) contemporary writers who write stories you can enjoy as casual reading that also have a rich deeper layer waiting to be explored if you so wish.  That balancing act isn’t easy and I think she does it well.  She’s also spent a lot of her life teaching and I’m curious to know whether that was a deliberate choice or just something to pay the bills.  Regardless, I’m interested in her views on education and a whole host of other issues.

Cammy:  Sure thing.  Anyone who chooses to live in San Antonio, Texas already stands a fairly good chance of being worth talking to.  And, as Kristy said, we totally met Mary in a class where we had to read The House On Mango Street.  Only it was La Casa en Mango Street for that class, and it was the first full book I ever read in Spanish (prior to that, the longest thing I’d read was a play).  For my part, I’d love to talk to her about her life going back and forth from Chicago to Mexico.  Nothing like a nomadic back-and-forth-between-worlds life to give a writer fodder for life.  I’m not sure I’d be able to hold up my end of the conversation as well as Kristy, but I’d be delighted to share a cup of coffee and listen in.

My House Smells Like Boy

My house smells like boy now. Unlike Kristy and Cammy, I grew up with a sister. We shared a teeny little room and bunked beds until sometime in high school. I’ve had roommates, both in college and for shorter periods over the summers when friends rotated through on graduate school internships and dipping-toes-in-the-DC-waters expeditions. Most of them have been female.

For reasons of economic necessity, I now have a boy in my house. This particular boy has been through once before on a summer stint and is now also in the area looking for work. He needed a room, I needed a roommate. There is no romantic interest here, no awkwardness, none at all: homeboy is gay and a very good friend. Problems solved. Except…my house smells like boy now.

I am told by those with brothers, boyfriends, and husbands that you get used to the boy smell. It really is a peculiar odor, very heavy on the gym sock with a hint of dead animal. Thankfully, it’s still nice enough outside that I can keep a window open for some air circulation; otherwise I don’t know what would happen. I have a little more time between now and the coldest depths of darkest January to desensitize myself to the stank. It’s a little touchy still, especially if I walk past his room to get to the bathroom, but I think I’ll make it.

The truly weird thing is that he’s not dirty, quite the opposite, in fact. He doesn’t have much stuff here and what he does have is contained in his room. He showers, he does laundry on a weekly basis, he cleans up his dishes, and washes his hands regularly. I ask you: FROM WHENCE COMETH THE STANK?
Help a girl out!

Coffee With a Bluestocking

Would we have coffee with…Elizabeth Carter?

Cammy:  Okay, so, I’ll admit that until toda,y the only Elizabeth Carter I knew was a girl a few years ahead of me in high school.  But, in combing through Wikipedia to see who of interest has a birthday this week, I ran across Carter and her buddies in a group known as the Bluestockings…and, yes, I totally want to have coffee with her.  In the absence of higher education (or much of any education of substance) for women in the 18th century, Elizabeth was a polyglot, mastering multiple languages, including Ancient Greek.  She translated, wrote and apparently, could make a decent pudding and sew, to boot.  She and the rest of the Bluestockings would get together, share ideas, hear lectures and generally improve their minds, which, for the time, made them a pretty bad-ass group of gals.  So, what would Elizabeth (once touted as the most learned woman in England) have to say about where we are in education now?  Would she see more value in the presence of women in the lecture hall….or in our conversations in dorm hallways (at least the kind of conversations that happened in the dorm hallways where Kristy and I lived)?  How about the drop of in studying the Classics?  Is there a need for a modern day Bluestocking movement?Kristy:  Oh heck yes!  I didn’t know any more about her than Cammy until tonight, but yes, she sounds like someone it would be fascinating to have coffee with.  Like Cammy I’m interested to hear what she has to say about education, in particular women’s education, at the present day.  I’m also interested in the comments about her ability to excel at typical “womanly” activities such as cooking and embroidery as well as the spheres which were dominated by men in her day such as translation and science.  I personally appreciate this since I like to think my enjoyment of cooking and crocheting doesn’t hinder my ability to be a feminist/post-modern woman.  But I have to wonder whether she cooked and sewed because she enjoyed them, or because they were essential skills for ladies of her day?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Darkest Moments in Television?

This one’s a short one, because I somehow thought I would have time to write a coherent post after having dinner with a bunch of medievalists.  Remember how I said that if you’re going to have a party with literature scholars you want to invite the medievalists?  Yeah…. It’s true.

Anyhow, I bring a question to the room:  My Norwegian colleague presented this to us as the darkest moment in Norwegian television history.  It got me wondering… is there an analogue in American television history, and if so, what is it?

What say you, gentle and not-so-gentle readers?

What Day is It? Is it My Turn?

First off, Note to Kristy:  I’m not sure if it’s my turn or not!  But I’ll post tonight!

Now, for the rest of you, gentle readers, I’m all kinds of screwed up on my days.  I made the dubious choice to work through the night the other day.  My first all-nighter since, I think since law school, but  I’m not sure that’s completely accurate.  It was definitely my first time ever to pull an all nighter for job related reasons.

The good news is, I got done what needed doing and aside from some meetings next week that involve travel (crap), my workload will drop off dramatically from here until the turn of the year.

The bad news is, well, you remember when I proclaimed I am way too old for this shit?  Yeah, I’m way to old to recover adequately from a literal all-nighter.  I’m still not sure of what day it is, and that’s not an exaggeration.  I’ve checked my phone for the day no less than three times today.  Sad.

The experience has been surreal.  For one thing, do you know how shocked the baby-boomer set is when they find out you were at work the entire night?  Yeah.  As my buddy Stephen said, “You ARE the water cooler.”  And I was.  I didn’t go out and proclaim my dedication to work, but when the early- arriving employees noted the frost on my little car out in the parking lot, I couldn’t hide it.  In fact, I got more than one call at my desk to check on me.  I think the initial fear was that my car was there because something had happened to me.  I don’t think it reassured them much to think I spent the night typing in my cubicle like a fiend.  I suppose I should be touched that they care, but mostly, I was mortified that I wasn’t going to be able to hide it by not talking about it.

Is it just because for my older colleagues, the last time they pulled an all-nighter is separated by more years than my last attempt?  Or is it so strange to think I would be that intent on finishing a task for a job that’s rather thankless?  Either way, I didn’t expect news to be that big.  I ran home around 7:30 for a shower and breakfast and I was back in around 8….and apparently, this news traveled with as much fire as the initial over-night event.  But I couldn’t help it.  There was shit I had to do, and the drop-dead date was that day at 5pm.  I couldn’t afford to go sleep off my night’s work just yet.  What was I supposed to do?

I am tempted to defend myself on this whole thing by saying that the situation that necessitated my not going home wasn’t my doing.  For once, I wasn’t pulling this shit through any fault of my own procrastination.  It was 100% because people did not listen when I told them the time I would need to finish something and kept re-assigning my time, without extending this particular due date.  I was caught in a mess not of my own creation.  And I’m not sure if this fact made everyone more or less inclined to question why I put myself through the wringer to get it done.  By all rights, I could have (finally) put my foot down, not turned it in complete and refused to take blame for the situation I was put in.

Instead, I did the work, inverted my day and have remained in a state of foggy semi-confusion since.  Honestly, I’m not sure there’s much that could compel me to do this again.  I think my 24+ hour marathon effort days are done.  I can’t say that it’s beauty rest I’m in need of, it’s more like “ZOMG-at-least-try-to-avoid-getting-any-uglier-and-also-to-not-die” rest.

I don’t think I’ll live this down at work.  I had senior level people looking at me in a state of wonder, “You didn’t go home last night, did you?”  “No.”  “What are you running on?!?!?”

I was honest in my response, “Caffeine and the fear of missing a deadline.”

So my apologies to all of you expecting something from Kristy, if this is her day.  I knew not what I did.

The Sound of Missing Tracks

I am a big, big, big fan of The Sound of Music.  The kind of fan who has seen the film over 87 times (I stopped counting when I was about 14…).  A fact that, Kristy does not seem to hold against me, to her extreme credit.

To MY credit, I didn’t go out and buy the 45th Anniversary Blu Ray edition with bells, whistles and schniztel with noodles.  I was tempted, but I hear the 50th anniversary will come with the schnitzel, the noodles, the copper kettle, the woolen mittens, and a brown paper mystery package tied up with string (I’m hoping it will contain a kitten with whiskers).  And, since I’ve already had two different VHS versions (wore one out completely, the other partially) and the 40th anniversary DVD release, I thought I could stand to wait for the big 5-0.

What I failed to realize was that they also re-released the album.

The album, that, after nearly half a century, finally has my favorite track included.

For years the album to the 1965 movie didn’t have every song.  In most cases, that’s okay, but in this case, it was my favorite that was missing.  I have long had a love for the version of “Edelweiss” that appears first in the movie–as a simple duet with Captain VonTrapp (voiced by Bill Lee–in case you still didn’t realize that wasn’t Christopher Plumber) and Liesel (who really is Charmian Carr, lest the previous parenthetical had you questioning everything)–but it was never on any of the copies I had of the album (I wore out two cassettes).  The only version there was the reprise at the Festival that has the whole fam-damily, a pit orchestra with a bell player who definitely picked up the hard mallets, and half the population of Austria.  The song’s still good, but it’s not the intimate little take that I love from the earlier scene.

When I first got my DVD of the film several years back, I kept saying I would go in and rip that track to an Mp3 for myself so I could finally over-indulge in the good version.  Of course I never got around to that.

But lo, what should appear in the Amazon $5 offering list today?  Is that a different cover to the album I spy?  And, ZOMG, NEW TRACK LISTING?

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  And he likes the good version of “Edelweiss,” too.

But there’s more!  In addition to that, we also get the music to the “Laendler” and the expanded version of the “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” reprise–with the opening that I never knew existed until the DVD special features–and the music from the interlude…..

Christmas came early for me this year and the hills are definitely alive with the sound of the tracks I’ve been missing….

Liberating Coffee!

Would we drink coffee with Simon Bolivar?

Kristy:  Sure.  I have a weakness for revolutionaries.  And as revolutionaries go, Simon was kind of an overachiever.  Most freedom fighters are contented with liberating one country, but no, this man had to liberate the greater part of a continent.  On the other hand, he proved largely ineffective at governing.  Perhaps meeting him face to face would shed some light on that?  I’d be interested to hear what he thinks of later political developments in Latin America and maybe even elsewhere.  Mostly I’d just like to meet him to put a fleshed out face with the name.  You can’t study Latin America without coming across the name again and again, and I’d like to know what the real man was like.  Also… you know… they say he was skilled at liberating countries from the Spanish and women from their corsets.

Cammy:  Well, given that Kristy and I once conjured up a mythical Trek franchise focused on the Federation Starship Bolivar (the top Starfleet Academy grads wind up on the Enterprise.  Where do the slackers at the bottom go?  The Bolivar.  What we lack in accomplishment, we make up for in wacky hijinks, Foosball excellence and managing to accidentally save the Universe), I feel I ought to at least meet the man who originated the name. Beyond that, I know he admired my boy Thomas Jefferson, but clearly he didn’t subscribe slavishly to the TJ view of the world, otherwise I don’t think he would have gone in for that whole life-long presidency thing in Bolivia.  He also apparently didn’t think the political environment in South America would sustain a US style democracy, which is fodder for some serious debate and conversation right there (during which I think Kristy would be more adept than I).  But the real reason I want to meet him?  To check and see if he’s anything like he appears in this Hark! A Vagrant comic strip*.

*If you are not reading Hark!  A Vagrant by Kate Beaton, you are missing out big time.  Speaking of people we ought to have coffee with….

I am too OLD for this Shit

As I’ve referenced previously, ye olde bill-paying, meat-space job has put me in the big middle of a hot mess of a project.  Said project is approaching a deadline (unrealistic, as most deadlines set by business majors tend to be), and for this reason I’ve been hurled back in the time machine from hell, to law school finals.

Honestly, I’m too old for the kind of marathon effort involved here.  Marathon effort for something I really love and give a damn about?  I’m there, and could probably tap into some reserve of energy built on eagerness.  For this?  I’m done.  I can take no more and the reality of my age has smacked me in the face.  If I thought I loved sleep in college, that’s nothing to my love for it now.  And the sedentary requirements of this project combined with the characteristic slowing of metabolism that starts to rear its awful head around my age, have made me fat, flabby, and completely unenergetic.   If there is a word for the kind of stiff pain in my shoulders right now, I’m not aware of it.  I thought of trying to coin something but all that came to mind is OMFG I HATE STRESS GET ME OUT.  Not quite succinct enough to catch on, I’m afraid.

It’s all rolled up as one nasty little reminder that, time is marching all-the-hell over me.

Yeah, cause I TOTALLY wanted to ponder that 20 days out from my birthday.

For the first time in my life, I really understand why people count down to retirement.  But I realized when I was about 14 that my generation would never get to retire, so the sober reality that I could possibly die in a cube with no sleep and sore shoulders kinda makes for a down day.

Feel free to tell me this will pass.


In Defense of Passive Voice

I’ve had about enough of people going off about the evils of passive voice.

I won’t argue that you can write a more forceful sentence if the actor is not some ephemeral nothing.  There’s a benefit to identifying just who it was that made shit happen, at least some of the time.

But somewhere along the way, a whole plethora of assholes have warped a good rule of thumb into some kind of iron clad directive.  It’s like hard-core religious fanatics who don’t check their theology before going on a crusade.  I can’t tell you how many times the same jack-ass with the vocabulary of a mediocre 5th grader, who can’t compose a 5 line e-mail without at least one error in subject-verb agreement, has proceeded to preach to me about not using the passive voice.

Here’s the thing:  just because it’s passive, doesn’t make it wrong.

Passive voice is a legitimate tool.  A blanket rule against it is just as bad as over-exploiting it.  What if I want to communicate something where the actor is NOT as important as the direct object?  I’m a self-centered, narcissistic bitch and I don’t want to talk about who kicked me, I just want to moan about the fact that I was kicked.  Why should I talk about who did it?  Isn’t enough that I have bruised shins?  Now we have to talk about the jackass that gave them to me?  Sure!  Forget about my pain!  Let’s shine that spotlight on the aggressors of the world and push the people they oppressed to second place in that sentence!  Happy thought.

I’m more than willing to revise passive voice out of what I write, because it’s a crutch that I abuse without realizing, but don’t tell me “it’s wrong.”

At least not until you can figure out when to use “me” “myself” and “I” properly, and sort out how to match the right verb conjugation to the subject.